Because, if you love sweet corn and tamales as much as we do, well it's only logical that the two be even more magical when combined.
Here we're sharing a vegetarian recipe for Mexican-style sweet corn tamales that aren't 100% authentic (read on for why) but are easy and seriously delicious.
Just to make sure we're on the same page, let's talk about the word "elote." Since corn originated in Mexico, it's no surprise that there are a lot of specific words related to the vegetables. There are a few uses for the word "elote" including in reference to the garnished grilled street corn that is adored by many Mexican food lovers.
But in Mexico (and most of Central America), "elote" more generally refers to corn that is still on the cob. As in fresh, recently-harvested corn as opposed to dried corn. Like so many words used in Mexico, the word comes from the Nahuatl word "elotitutl" which translates to "tender ear."
Based on that definition, you can probably surmise that a "Tamal de Elote" is a tamale made with fresh corn.
It is most common to see this tamal in Mexico in late summer into early fall when corn is harvested. At the most basic, it is a plant-based tamal that is prepared with fresh corn kernels that are ground and then placed in fresh corn husks before being cooked. It has a sweet flavor (because the corn is very tender) and its consistency is smooth.
Also known as an "uchepo," the fresh corn tamale is a dish that comes from the Tierra Caliente area of Mexico, which extends across the states Michoacán and Guerrero, Mexico. Traditionally an uchepo is served with crema and a cooked tomato sauce.
These days you find variations on this tamale throughout Central america with some sweet and others savory.
Here are a few variations you'll find in Mexico:
There is a lot more variety in corn in Mexico and the type used for making fresh corn tamales tends to be drier and less juicy than that we find in the United States.
As such, we’re adding in some masa harina (masa corn flour) to thicken the mixture even though that’s not traditional.
(from about 1/2 pound package)
plus more for serving (optional to make sweet tamales)
or almond milk
(optional to make sweet tamales)
, drained and rinsed (optional to make spicy tamales)
, for serving (optional)
Soak the husks: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the corn husks, submerging them completely under the water. Let sit until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes, pressing down to cover them in water every few minutes.
You can do this step the night before and leave them to soak at room temperature.
Cook the corn: Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil then add the corn and cook until it’s tender, about 5 to 10 minutes then drain. Meanwhile, rehydrate the masa.
Whisk the dry ingredients: Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the masa harina with 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 teaspoons of salt. If making sweet tamales, add the grated cinnamon now.
Rehydrate masa harina: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, warm the milk for 30 seconds, until just scalded and steaming. If making sweet tamales, add the vanilla extract now. Pour the warm milk over the masa and stir until just combined. Let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Pulse the corn: In a food processor fitted with an S-blade, pulse the corn for about 6 (1 second) pulses until a chunky puree forms. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the corn puree into the bowl with the masa mixture and stir until evenly combined.
Beat the butter: Place the butter and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. At medium-low speed, add the cooled masa mixture in six additions, beating well after each addition. If making spicy tamales, stir in the chopped green chiles now.
Assemble the tamales: Remove 1 soaked husk from the water and arrange on a work surface with the narrow end pointing away from you. On the wide end, spread 1/4 cup (or anywhere from 4 to 5 tablespoons of the dough) of the tamale dough into a 5-inch long rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch husk border at the bottom.
Fold in the long sides of the husk, overlapping them to enclose the filling. Fold the narrow end toward you, over the tamale. Fold the wide end over the tamale and place seaside down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining corn husks and tamale dough.
Start the steamer: Fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches of water. Place the steamer insert over the base and place any small corn husks in the bottom then add the tamales. Place a few of the remaining corn husks on top of the assembled tamales and cover the insert with a lid. Bring the water to a boil.
Reduce the heat to moderately low so the water is at a simmer and steam the tamales for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Check the water level periodically and add more as needed.
Check If The Tamales Are Cooked: To check if a tamal is cooked, remove one tamale to a work surface and carefully open the husk. If the husk peels back without much sticking, the tamale is cooked. If not, cover the pot again and check the tamales every 10 minutes until the filling no longer sticks to the husk. Uncover and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve: Serve the sweet tamales with crema, additional cinnamon, and queso fresco. Serve the spicy tamales with crema, crumbled queso fresco, and lime wedges.
Connect With Salt & Wind Travel
More Mexico On Salt & Wind Travel